July 2012

Since I last checked in I had a long 24-day trip to Europe for most of the month of June. I had a great time at the pre-test which falls two weekends prior to the race at Le Mans and then headed off to Germany to do a little bit of testing at Weissach with some of our future race equipment. It was great to get back and see lots of old and new faces. Weissach is growing faster than you can imagine both in pure numbers of people but also in terms of building on every square inch of their existing property. I spent a day seeing some exciting new stuff, including the 918 which I think has exceeded my expectations. The race car side of it was great—it was a full day of testing on the test track. There is some really cool stuff coming down the pipeline.

From Weissach it was a short flight up to Berlin to check in with the fitness team. I’ve mentioned it before but it is basically a battery of tests over a day from VO2 Max (the volume of oxygen you can consume while exercising at your maximum capacity) and physical conditioning to normal health checks, blood checks, physical strength and such. Then I headed back to Paris for a little bit of a break before the long week of Le Mans. Seth Neiman, the principal at Flying Lizards, and I were able to catch the second to last day of the French Open and see the Men’s Doubles Finals and the Women’s Finals and it was pretty cool to go to the Roland Garros for the first time. I’m not a big tennis fan but I do follow it and it was a really fun way to clear the head before the final stretch of the trip which was the Big One.

As I have touched on, we knew that we weren’t going to fight for pole at Le Mans. Our pace was somewhat disappointing as we feared it might be. We knew we still had a fighting chance—twice around the clock leaves a lot of room for a lot of things to happen and ultimately you need to be consistent and reliable. But it wasn’t our year. Within the first hour, the shocks started to give us problems and forced Jörg off the track and from there it was just a combat against the car to try to make it run. Ultimately through lots of extended pit stops and off course excursions, the final one was in the middle of the night. I came up on a car that had had an accident and had covered the track in debris and gravel. The marshals didn’t even have time to display yellow flags and I was already involved in the wreck. That was the end of what had already been a long night where we were some 12 laps and more than an hour outside of the lead pack. So, another tough year for the Lizards at Le Mans.

Now it’s time to turn our focus forward and concentrate on what we have in our control which is the effort that we’re going to take to Lime Rock for this coming weekend. Laguna Seca, which was the last AMLS race before Le Mans over a month ago now, was incredibly disappointing from the end result standpoint but very promising in that we were back at fighting weight. By that I mean the rules in IMSA here stateside have allowed us to run a little larger wing in the rear and a larger front splitter as well as produce a little bit more horsepower to overcome some of the drag that the wings create as they produce more grip. So we feel that at some of the smaller race tracks where handling is the premium, such as Lime Rock and Baltimore, we’re going to have a fighting chance to race up front. Without being over-optimistic and as tough as the last 18 months have been, I am really excited to get to Lime Rock and get down to business. I’m ready to put all of the adversity behind us and just race for the pure reasons that we love racing—that quest for the top step of the podium.

Lime Rock is one of my favorite races, both geographically and because it’s such a challenging track. It’s so tight. Many of you guys who are reading this have driven there or might call it your home track and it’s such a wild ride as the only car on the track, let alone with 30-plus cars from multiple classes and driving experience. It’s going to be a great show and it’s great to be on the East Coast for Independence Day.

Last week we were at the Six Hours of the Glen and it was refreshing to return to the Rolex Series at one of their iconic races. I was hired to join Magnus Racing, a long time Porsche team and a great group of guys. It was my first time racing for them but I knew as defending Rolex 24 winners in GT they had a serious effort. I wasn’t disappointed. They have a great program and always make sure to have fun while racing hard. It was another weekend filled with adversity for Porsche, with our race ending in the first hour due to an electrical fire. Hopefully, next time I join them we’ll have a chance to battle through, finish the race and contend, but for right now it’s a few days of down time and preparation for Lime Rock weekend.

Send your comments and questions to Patrick at askpatrick@pca.org. Although he can’t respond individually, he’ll get to as many as possible in his blog.